PRESIDENT BACKS OFF PLANS THAT WOULD CUT PAYMENTS TO FARMERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush apparently is backing off plans he announced earlier this year that would cut government payments to farmers. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told senators last week that while spending must be reduced to hold down the federal deficit, he is willing to look elsewhere in agriculture programs for cuts.
Bush asked Congress in February to slash billions of dollars from payments to farm operations, dropping the maximum farmers are allowed to collect from $360,000 to $250,000. He also proposed to cut all farm payments by 5 percent.
Johanns told a Senate Appropriations Committee panel on farm spending that proposals such as the one to cut the payment limit are "quite sensitive."
"We recognize Congress may have other proposals to achieve these savings, and we are willing to work with the Congress on other cost-saving measures,'' Johanns testified last week.
Alabama Farmers Federation National Affairs Director Keith Gray said farmers appreciate the fact that President Bush is willing to consider ways to control the national spending other than disproportionate cuts to agricultural programs.
"The simple fact is that if all federal spending for agricultural programs was eliminated, it would be less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget," Gray said, adding that the 2002 farm bill already has cost $17 billion less than Congressional Budget Office projections.
Gray praised work by the Alabama Congressional delegation, especially Congressman Jo Bonner who serves on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Budget Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions who sits on the Senate Budget Committee. Both Bonner and Sessions helped pass the budget resolution that did not contain lower payments for farmers.
Additionally, the Farmers Federation's annual Washington Legislative Trip in March served as a platform for farmers to voice their concerns over the president's proposed spending cuts.
The entire Alabama Congressional delegation assured farmers that they would not support efforts to reopen the farm bill and impose further payment limits on producers.